Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Tuesday applauded President Trump’s decision to move about 50 American soldiers in northern Syria away from a frontline in a pending war between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces.
“It reminds me of President Reagan’s decision after the bombing in Beirut that having a few hundred soldiers in the middle of the war, they’re not necessarily a deterrent but often a tripwire to a larger conflagration and so I really think the president is making a wise decision,” he told reporters on a conference call.
“I’m of the opinion go big or go home and there’s no reason to be putting a couple dozen soldiers in the middle of oncoming armies,” he added. “So I think the president’s made a wise decision, and I for one am very supportive of it.”
He slammed Republicans criticizing the president over his decision as neoconservatives who “never met a war they didn’t like.”
“These are the people who never met a war they didn’t like. Never met a war they wanted to end, never met a war they once declared victory from. And so no it doesn’t surprise me. But I guess the onus is on those people to explain what the national interest is in Syria for us,” he said.
“All these same people who wanted to stay were advocates for getting into the middle of this Syrian civil war. They were all advocates for toppling Gaddhafi, they were all advocates for toppling Hussein, they’ve been wrong about everything in foreign policy for the last several decades,” he added.
“They’ve gotten us involved in quagmire after quagmire, extraordinarily expensive, I agree with the president that the expense in both blood and treasure is disproportionate, something I think most Americans would actually agree with president that this is not a war that our national interest is at stake.”
A senior National Security Council official told reporters on Tuesday that the American troops, which number about 50 in northern Syria, would be redeployed elsewhere in Syria, contrary to reports suggesting that Trump with withdrawing all U.S. troops there.
During the height of the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), there were about 2,000 U.S. forces in Syria. The administration has pushed to reduce that to a presence of about 400.
Paul said the backlash over moving 50 troops within Syria shoes the “lunacy” of the war caucus’ criticism.
“This goes to the lunacy of the war caucus yelling and screaming over moving 50 soldiers. For Goodness sake’s they want to lose 50 in the wake of a 600,000 person Turkish Army. Who are these armchair generals?” he said.
Paul argued the approximately 50 forces are not a deterrent “to anybody.”
“We have a lot of different scattered special forces in those areas, but we have no deterrent to anybody…it’s not like we have a big army there to deter Turkey from coming in,” he said.
He also said the U.S. could not be responsible for all the refugees that would result from a Turkish offensive or refugees who are currently residing in Turkey.
“If we were to deter Turkey from coming in, who’s going to be responsible for all those refugees? There’s like three million refugees — are we going to be responsible for them forever? The president makes a good point on the captured ISIS fighters and families — are we going to house 90,000 people until the end of time?” he said.
“When are the Europeans going to step up and do anything? When are they locally going to do something? The Turks have at least stood up and said they’re going to do something about it, so I think the president’s made the right decision and anybody advocating, telling the president or demanding that the president leave 50 troops in place is somebody who really hasn’t thought through the consequences,” he said.
Paul also slammed Democrats who have are for foreign policy restraint but are not backing up the president on his decision. Even the supposedly anti-war, ultra-progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) criticized Trump for moving the 50 U.S. troops from northern Syria.
Paul chalked it up to “Trump Derangement Syndrome”:
I think that why you hear such a uniform racket going after the president is the Democrats go after the president because of Trump derangement syndrome. They don’t like him politically, and we’re in the middle of a continuous campaign. And so there are Democrats who probably do think it was ill-advised to be in the middle of the Syrian civil war but they’ve gone quiet or dormant since their preoccupation is more with expressing their displeasure for Trump.
“The Republicans are actually more predictable in the sense that the neo-con hawks in our party really, like I said, never met a war they didn’t like,” he said.